- November 04 2015
Trekking to “Okusha” of the Mysterious “Tokagushi Shrine” Surrounded by Big Japanese Cedar Trees
Hello! This is Yaji, and I am a Nagano native!
Although there are many shrines in Japan, it is rare to see a shrine as mysterious as “Togakushi Shrine,” which is over 1000 years old. Not only Japanese people but also many foreign tourists are under the spell of this mysterious shrine, surrounded by big Japanese Cedars.
This area is called “Togakushi Kodo,” which is a spetacular trail with five shrines and ponds, but the most famous one is called “okusha”. Since this “okusha” is located in the middle of the mountain, you have to climb the mountain road in order to worship there. But the road lined with trees is the real highlight of this shrine.
In this article, we blog about when we worshipped at the “okusha”, the highlight of “Togakushi Shrine”!
The road to Okusha of Togakushi Shrine
As we mentioned earlier, you have to climb the moutain road in order to get to “okusha” of Togakushi Shrine. To get to the shrine, it is about 4km from the closest parking, where cars and buses can enter. For those who are used to hiking, it is about a 20 minute walk. If you decide to walk slowly, then it would take about 40 minutes.
This is a map you can get at the parking (600 yen flat rate). They only have it in Japanese, but you can get the idea from the illustration.
First, we go down this gravel road from the parking.
We found a big wooden shrine gate after 3 minutes we started walking. This is the entrance of the approach to the “okusha.”
A red shrine gate is cool too, but I like this wooden one better.
It is a very easy and gentle road for a while from here.
You will see a gate called “Zuishinmon Gate(随神門)” after 10 to 15 minutes of walking.
The statue before the gatae is “komainu(狛犬).” It is set to protect the shrine from being invaded by evil spirits. The lion-like look is deignified!
Here it is, the “Zuishinmon Gate”! It is such an elegant gate, which is mostly talked when “Togakushi Shrine” is featured on guidebooks and so on.
How all the grass covers the straw roof is nice. It expresses how this shrine is built in the nature.
Togakushi Shrine must-see “road with big Japanese Cedar trees”
After you go through this gate, you will see the road with big Japanese Cedar trees across the gate.
So powerful....! You’ll get pleasently overwhelmed by the large Japanese Cadar trees, and it is more powerful than you see in the picture.
If you look at them closely, Japanese Cedar trees have their own characters. Appreciating every single tree you encounter here is the way to enjoy this road.
The trees around this area is said to be 400 years old. We can’t help but feel the history from seeing the trees covered in moss.
Every hollow in the trees comes with “shide.” (“Shide” has a role to shake off the evil spirits outside and to make the inside a holy space)
The way these trees lined like twins take root is amazing.
As we pass the road with Japanese Cedar trees, the road slowly gets steep.
When the road is made of stone steps, you will see a small shrine gate by the road.
We found a small shrine.
We climbed this very narrow stairs, but be careful. It’s very slippery.
We keep climbing up this stone stairs. There was a sign that says it is about 10 minutes from this small shrine.
Arrived at the top! Let’s worship
Here it is again. Komainu.
There was a small waterfall near the top.
Before you enter the shrine, you must wash your hands with this Chouzu to purify your hands.
Since it was during the holidays when we went, we waited in line for about 15 minutes. It is usually easy to get in.
While we were waiting line, we overheard a conversation between a mom and her child. She was telling her child, “don’t make too many wishes at one time! Just one wish! I will say, ‘I hope to win a lottery’,” which made me feel warm inside. haha
Shinto and its faith in Japan are cultural and ideological, and it is completely different from other religions. At least for Japanese people in modern days, visits to a shrine is only to make a wish.
After this brown shrine gate, finally we made it! “Okusha”!
We found out that our friend got pregnant in the morning of the day, we prayed that the baby will grow up healthy.
Beside the “okusha,” there is “Kuzuryu Shrine” on the left, which is the oldest shrine among the five shrines. This shrine worships a god of dragon, which has nine heads, and it is said to be the god of rain and fertility. It is said that it was a very important god for farmers in Nagano, who lived in a harsh natural environment.
Moreover, there is a place where you can give back your lucky charms and fortune cookies near the shrine. People who collect “goshuin,” a stamp that proves of their visit, line up here, so be sure to wait in line.
Easy way back, about 20 minutes
Although the step stones were hard to go up on the way, it was an easy way back.
We only took 10 to 15 minutes to go back to Zuishinmon Gate.
It was cloudy and dizzling when we came, but it started getting cleared up on the way back. A little dissapointed...
We are back at the entrance!
We initially thought the 4km round trip was easy breezy, but it was more tiring that we imagined. Phew!
However, experiencing hiking and visiting a shrine at a shrine at the same time was very fresh, and it was fun.
As soon as we went down, we found a restaurant (also used as a resting aera) on the left, which was selling soft cream. It was perfect for a short break! It was delicious~!
Togakushi is full of nice places “okunosha” including other shrines, museums, restaurants, and cafes! For an article about the whole Togakushi city, please read “Lets’s go to Togakushi Shrine, a spiritual place in Nagano! Recommended course for exploring”.